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Last Modified: December 21, 2022
Feature image forA Blizzard of Alberta Books: A Holiday Gift Guide: a photograph of a young girl sitting beside a Christmas tree reading a book. Gifts are on the floor around her. The text " Beyond the Stacks with Jessie Bach" runs across the bottom of the page.
A Blizzard of Alberta Books: A Holiday Gift Guide

by Jessie Bach

Have you heard about the holiday tradition of Jolabokaflod? Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to “Christmas-book-flood,” refers to the Icelandic tradition of exchanging gifts of new books on Christmas Eve, and then cozying up by the fireplace as a family and reading the evening away.

Jolabokaflod actually kicks off a few months before Christmas Eve, when every household in Iceland receives an annual catalogue called the Journal of Books which contains a list of the newest Icelandic publications. It signals the start of the holiday season and sends Icelanders out in droves to their local bookshops to pick out gifts for their loved ones.

I’m proposing that this year we establish our own, very Albertan, “holiday-book-blizzard” and spend a few hours on Christmas Eve reading a recent title from one of our fabulous Alberta publishers. Here’s a short Journal of Alberta Books to help you make your picks for everyone in the family:

For the Grown-ups:

Grab a blanket, an adult eggnog, and your coziest slippers as you hunker down with one of these new 2022 releases:

  • The Book of Smaller by rob mclennan (2022, University of Calgary Press)
    “Written while at home full-time with two small children under five, the book of smaller is a collection of short, sharp, incredibly dense prose poems. Created in moments snatched from chaos, these poems challenge the possibilities of language in very small spaces.”
  • The Extraordinary Lives of Ukrainian-Canadian Women: Oral Histories of the Twentieth Century edited by Iroida Wynnyckyj (2022, University of Alberta Press)
    “This book contains the life stories of ten Ukrainian-Canadian women who survived the turbulent events of twentieth-century Europe.”
  • Love & Rules: Life Lessons Learned with Horses by Lee McLean (2022, Red Barn Books Inc.)
    “From Canada’s beloved horsewoman comes a new collection of essays that cover the spectrum of love, fear, winning, loss, aging, growth, illness and recovery—all through the medium of horsemanship.”
  • There are Wolves Here Too by Niall Howell (2022, NeWest Press)
    “It’s 1997, and Robin and his two best friends, Steph and Dylan, are ready to dive into their first summer as teenagers. But when Catherine, a classmate’s younger sister, disappears, Robin finds his carefree life of mall arcades, soccer, and slasher movies swapped out for one of paranoia, guilt, and confusion…Niall Howell’s There Are Wolves Here Too blends coming of age with noir and horror elements as we move with Robin through the difficulties of learning who to trust and when to trust yourself.”

For the Teens:

The teens in the family won’t hesitate to put down the phone and escape into a new graphic novel or supernatural tale:

  • King Warrior by Jay Bulckaert, Erica Nyyssonen and Lucas Green (2022, Renegade Arts Entertainment)
    “A story spanning the globe both imaginary and real, King Warrior celebrates the turbulent glory of childhood while encouraging the reader to reconnect with that rich inner palace of youthful imagination that ultimately holds the key to our freedom.”
  • The Songs of Magic by Kaelyn Hamm (2022, Jazz Cat Publishing)
    “Fifteen-year-old Cassandra Walker has been hearing strange music, and when a dragon crash lands in her school parking lot her world tumbles into chaos. Thrown into a road trip with an elf and an imp, she must travel to the elves’ capital city and save the magical realm from exposure.”
  • Why Are You Still Here?: A Lillian Mystery by Lynda Partridge (2022, Durville & UpRoute Books)
    “In Why Are You Still Here? Lillian furthers her sense of belonging through her connection with a surprising spirit that returns her to traditional ways, legends, and Indigenous ways of knowledge. She and her buddies also uncover the mystery of ghosts and spirits that live behind a window at the family farm.”

For the Kids:

The little ones will love to cozy up with Grampa or Gramma to read a picture book or learn some wacky new facts:

  • A is for Alberta by Mindy Johnstone (2022, Summerthought)
    “Discover the special places of Alberta in this colourful hardcover alphabet book by local artist, Mindy Johnstone. The vibrant scenes are acrylic paintings highlighting the diverse landscape and activities of Alberta—a rhyming journey from A to Z that visits city festivals, ancient badlands, the northern lights, and snow-capped peaks. A pure delight for all ages to learn about adventures in Wild Rose country.”
  • A Cabin Christmas by Glynnis Hood (2022, RMBooks)
    “Colourful and lively illustrations draw you into a touching tale about how a community of all shapes and sizes comes together, just in time for Christmas.”
  • Howdy, I’m Flores LaDue by Ayesha Clough (2022, Red Barn Books Inc)
    Howdy, I’m Flores LaDue is a children’s book about Canada’s little-known rodeo queen Flores LaDue (1883-1951). The story, ideal for ages 6-10, brings the real-life legend to a new generation of kids. A world champion trick roper and First Lady of the Calgary Stampede, Flores helped put Western Canada on the world map. A rider, roper and rodeo queen, her story will inspire kids to work hard, blaze their own trails, and rope the life of their dreams.”
  • Super Explorers: Weird, Wacky & Wild by Nicholle Carrière (2022, Blue Bike Books)
    “Super Explorers bring you the facts, and in this case, the facts are really weird!

    • At least 9 million people have the same birthday as YOU!
    • It takes about 50 licks to finish one scoop of ice cream.
    • You fart about 14 times a day.
    • You can’t sink if you swim in the Dead Sea because… Read this book to find out why!”

To pick up these titles in time for Christmas, check out your local bookseller in person or online! Wishing you all a cozy, warm, and comfortable Alberta “holiday-book-blizzard.”

Beyond the Stacks is a column about libraries in Alberta and the useful and necessary services they provide.

Photo of Jessie Bach, author of this articleJessie Bach grew up on a family farm in Southern Alberta, and is a life-long library user and book lover. She has a degree in history from the University of Saskatchewan, and a Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University. Jessie has worked in archives, academic libraries, corporate records management, and now public libraries. Her current role is Bibliographic Services Manager at Marigold Library System where she manages the team that does acquisitions, cataloguing and processing of library material for Marigold’s thirty-six member libraries. She currently lives in Calgary with her partner and, in true librarian fashion, four cats. Jessie likes to read (of course), knit, consume way too many true crime podcasts, and lift weights in the gym. 

Feature image credit: Nastya Sensei.